New Delhi, Jan 15: While at first it was being stated that India would have to wait a while longer before it could extradite Tahawwur Rana, news coming in now suggests that the process would be completed sooner.
New Delhi, Nov 27: Nearly two years after the Mumbai 26/11 attack, one of the biggest revelations to have come out is with regard to David Headley. The American agent who had turned rogue was the one who carried out the reconnaissance of the targets that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba hit in Mumbai.
India’s case against Tawwahur Rana and David Headly are in a limbo since there has been no decision whatsoever on whether a team of the National Investigating Agency would be sent to question them. Looking at what has been going on, there is absolutely no progress on this front andIndiafinds it is to be a wasted exercise to send any team now to interrogate Rana.
When the trial against Rana was onIndiawas hopeful that he would be convicted on the charges against him in the 26/11 attacks. However Rana faced a conviction only in relation to the Danish newspaper case and was acquitted in the 26/11 case.
NIA sources say that have the required evidence against Rana but cannot proceed any further since he has not been questioned by them directly. There was a process that had commenced to interrogate Rana but it has been put on hold as of now since they believe it would be a waste of time to interrogate him. He would not speak anything as of now since he has an acquittal in the case.
However these delays are also contributing to a delay in the filing of the chargesheet also. The NIA wants to club both the Headley and Rana cases together and does not want to file separate chargesheets. Headley would be the prime accused while Rana the second. It makes no sense to file separate chargesheets in the case. Filing separate chargesheets would only mean that the trial would be delayed since the case would have to come up before the court twice.
However going by the investigation it appears that the case against Headley is much stronger when compared to Rana. The NIA has been probing various aspects to the case and initially there were plenty of intercepts regarding Rana’s travel withinIndia. However it was found that he was just aiding Headley and has not undertaken any other operation on his own as had been claimed before.
The case against Headley has already been built up, but against Rana there is still a long way to go. All the details on Rana are based on the FBI probe against the man. This would mean that he NIA chargesheet would rely heavily on the FBI case. The NIA will now seek material evidence against Rana from theUSand would build up the case based on that.
This process is likely to take another couple of months since there is still some material which is required in the Rana case. However theUSmay take sometime to share this material since the appeal against Rana in the 26/11 case is underway and only once that is complete will they share this material.
However the bigger question is whetherIndiatoo would drop its case against Rana if theUScourt acquits him in the appeal. The NIA says that would not be the case and in such an event they would proceed with the material on record and would also give it a shot at questioning him. At the moment we are just waiting for the appeal to get over and only then make the next move.
NIA sources say they do understand that there has been a delay in this case. We are dependant to a certain extent on another country and hence things do not move at the pace we want it to. However we will ensure that the chargesheet is filed by January next year and there will be no further delays on that. It is not a grim situation in so far as the 26/11 case. There are just some glitches regarding Rana, but the main person in this case is Headley and there is a water tight case against him. Those persons who he dealt with are all expected to cooperate during the trial and will be marked as witnesses. Hence it is not as though the entire case is reliant only on the information from theUSsince we too have our very own information on him to build up a very strong case, NIA sources also pointed out.
India sure is happy with the statements made by David Headley, but the task ahead for Indian interrogators is not an easy one. There are various names, Major Iqbal, Samir Ali, Sajid Mir and the likes who have come up repeatedly during the trial of David Headley and these names will be prominent in the days to come.
These are just names as of today and we have heard them from the likes of Headley and Rana. Indian agencies have always maintained that they had no expectations from Pakistan where information of these persons were concerned. The case of Sajid Mir is a typical example. Post 26/11 a person was picked up and arrested in Pakistan only to be later let off on the pretext that they had caught the wrong man. The events relating to Mir are very interesting since it goes on to show that this entire exercise was stage managed in order to give the real Sajid Mir a cover to get out of the radar which today he has successfully managed to do. Today Pakistan maintains that the only Sajid Mir who exists in Pakistan is a cleric and has nothing to do anything even remotely to do with the ISI and the army.
Sources here said that there are lengthy documents and testimonies relating to Mir, but the identity will never be known unless and until Pakistan themselves decide to chip in with their bit of information. With this trial underway, the pressure on the Pakistan’s ISI is expected to increase, but the world can be rest assured that the real persons will never come to the forefront. Take all the names that have been mentioned above. These are very important personnel in the establishment and not some ordinary gun men or operatives of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Major Iqbal and Samir Ali have been associated both the Pakistan army and the ISI for nearly a decade. They specialise with logistics and provide training to cadres. Sajid Mir too is no ordinary operative and he has been closely associated with both the army and the ISI and has carried out many operations. This is an indication that these men belong to the system and they are able to get their work done only because they belong to the system. Unlike operatives who have to go through the members of the establishment, these men had direct access to whatever they needed to carry out the operation. The Indian intelligence had pointed out that a person like Mir was such a favourite in the system that he was just told to do a job and hardly any questions were asked. So impressed were they with him that they put him in charge of handling foreign operatives and that is how he came in touch with Headley in the first place.
Although Rana and Headley may take their names a couple of times more during the trial, the exercise to bring them to book would be next to impossible. Pakistan would do everything under the sun to ensure that these men do not get into the hands of any investigating agency. Putting them in front is as good as declaring that the ISI is a terrorist outfit.
However Pakistan would be under immense pressure to keep these names away. The first demand that would be made is for the voice samples. More than the United states of America, it is more important for India to have these voice samples since the chargesheet has to have a mention of the role played by these men and in order to establish the link these samples are very much needed.
Indian officials say that at best what Pakistan would do is buy time and wait for the matter to fizzle out. They had said that they would carry out their own investigation, but till date have not put behind the bars any of the big wigs. Moreover they have also not lived up to the commitment of providing India with the voice samples.
Basically the indications are clear that the ongoing Rana trial and the ISI link at the end would only become an embarrassing exercise for the ISI, but in reality they would continue to safeguard these key men. However Indian agencies say that they will go about their job and do their bit of interrogating Rana and also filing a chargesheet.
The trial against Tahawwur Rana is expected to be a high drama affair. The trial which will commence on May 16th will be aided by a confession of Rana which was made before the Chicago court. The confession itself is an interesting one where Rana goes on to place the entire blame for the 26/11 fiasco on the ISI and the Pakistani establishment. Interestingly there is no blame on the Lashkar-e-Tayiba which finally staged the attack.
The court had however rejected this confession on the first of April stating that the defence was objectively unreasonable. However when the trial commences Rana’s legal team would have a lot more to do in order to prove the allegations that he has made against the ISI and the Pakistani establishment.
However India is all smiles with this development and says that their stand has been vindicated. Rana goes on to state in his confession that the entire attack was done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI and not at the behest of the Lashkar.
Apart from proving these allegations against the Pakistani government he would also have to explain why he had provided material and documents to Headley in order to enter into India. Rana who is the proprietor of the First World Immigration Services in Chicago had helped Headley with documents which in turn helped him pose as an immigration consultant from the US.
The stand taken by Rana is an interesting one. Despite the entire world stating that the attack was carried out by the Lashkar, he only sticks to the role played by the Pakistani government and the ISI. The statement by Rana to this effect clears one part of the doubt since he himself goes on to say that he considers himself to be a Pakistani patriot and the ISI had sought his help. Since he had done work for the establishment he should be entitled for diplomatic immunity. Another interesting aspect to this confession is that this comes in the backdrop of severe tensions between the ISI and the CIA.
The biggest problem is however for Pakistan since Rana’s statements threatens to blow the lid of the country which has all through denied any involvement in the 26/11 attack. Moreover it would also justify which Headley has been saying regarding the involvement of the Pakistani establishement in the attack. Although Headley’s statements were more guarded in this regard, Rana has been more direct and open about this aspect.
This trial which will include both Headley and Rana will be watched closely by the Indian agency, National Investigating Agency which is probing this case now. The statements by both these accused will help the NIA coordinate and corroborate their case better which in turn would help them file a fool proof chargesheet.
Headley during his testimony before the grand jury had said that he had managed to enter into India under a false flag in order to survey targets for the attack. I had told Rana about my assignment and explained to him that the immigration office would provide a cover story for why I was in India. I had also shared with Rana that I had been asked to work for the ISI.
Rana would now have to explain in detail about his links with the ISI, the Pakistan government and also Headley once the trial commences. The trial is expected to be completed within a month. NIA sources say that they would be interrogating Rana once the trial is completed and a formal request would be sent in this regard to the US at that point in time.
There is more trouble for the Pakistan based ISI with both David Headley and Tahawwur Rana likely to admit to their roles in the 26/11 attack which was carried out with the support of the Pakistan based spy agency.
The trial in the Rana case which was postponed last February at the behest of his lawyer will now commence on May 16th at a court in Chicago. Going by the reports it becomes evident that Rana is likely to confess to his crime before court in order to bargain for a lesser sentence. He was associated with Headley during the 26/11 attack and investigating agencies say that he lent support to Headley while the survey was conducted and also helped him with his paper work with which he traveled in India.
The National Investigating Agency which is handling this case is keeping a very close watch on the trial of Rana in particular. The trial would be a full fledged one and both India as well as Pakistan will keep a very close watch on the proceedings before the court. Rana is expected to underline and describe in detail the manner in which the ISI was behind this attack. Sources in the NIA say that the trial would largely also revolve around the role and the confession of David Headley who is one of the key accused in the 26/11 case. The prosecution would look to ascertain the association between Headley and Rana and the latter would have a lot to tell the court about this. The statements made by Rana will act as a document from where the Indian as well Pakistani agencies would proceed further with the case.
However the bigger worry for Pakistan is that the there are certain names of persons within their establishment which Headley speaks about. Sajid Mir, a colonel and a Major are part of Headley’s confessional statement which was made as part of a plea bargain. Following this confession, a team of the NIA left for the US and managed to interrogate Headley. Basically at the end of the questioning the Indian team got pretty much the same amount of information which Headley had already given in his confession. While a lot of the information was documented and would form part of the chargesheet there were still some missing links which Indian agencies have not been able to connect. The role of Sajid Mir and the rest of the members of the Pakistan establishment is what Indian agencies were trying to find out more about. However Headley stops shot of giving out more details claiming that is all he knew.
Once Rana comes into the box during the trial, he will be cross questioned on the basis of the Headley’s confession and all those involved in the investigation hope that he would reveal more about the details which Headley had left off half way.
Pakistan on the other hand would wait with bated breath for each statement made by Rana. As per the information available it is said that Rana would commence the trial by saying that he believed that he was working for Pakistani spies. It may be recalled that Rana had also said that he was a Pakistani patriot who believed that the ISI wanted his help. He is expected to reiterate that statement before the court as well.
Now this is a statement with a lot of implications since it would mean that Rana, before being given the brief was told that he was part of the Pakistan establishment. India is bound to act aggressive with Pakistan on this particular issue and that country would have a lot of explaining to do. Moreover Pakistan could also come under pressure to reveal the identities of those persons who were part of the establishment when the 26/11 attack was planned.
As far as the Indian agencies are concerned they would have to wait a while longer before they could interrogate Rana. While a copy of Rana’s statement before the court would be made available to them, they would seek permission to interrogate Rana once the trial is complete. Once the statements of Rana are corroborated with the one given to them by Headley, will a chargesheet be filed by the NIA, sources also informed.
Sebastian Rotella, the award-winning reporter relentlessly exposing the David Headley case, in an exclusive interview with Rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa.
ProPublica.org, the respected journalism Web site, has blown the lid off US claims about Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley.
In a series of investigative reports, the non-profit news organisation has revealed how US intelligence agencies ignored about five warnings from Headley’s family about his terror activities.
Sebastian Rotella, the award-winning correspondent at ProPublica, believes that Headley could not have undertaken the surveys of targets for the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai all by himself.
Just before President Obama’s visit to India, there was a storm over the exact nature of intelligence the US shared with India on David Headley.What according to you is the real story?
In my story that I have reported recently, I have written about the time line of the warnings and inputs the agencies have received on Headley.
A review of the US government’s contacts with Headley had identified at least 5 different cases in which relatives or associates had warned that he was training or working with Pakistani terrorists.
Leads about this man surfaced in 2001, 2002, December 2008 and April 2009. Now coming to your question on the exact nature of intelligence shared by the US with India, not one of them mentioned or referred to David Headley.
The intelligence shared with India made mentions about an attack in Mumbai, but the name of Headley never cropped up during the intelligence sharing between the two countries.
It is said that the allegations made by Headley’s wife were too general in nature to connect Headley to a terror plot? Do you think this was a slip up?
The Americans decided that the nature of the allegations was not specific in nature and I cannot say why they said this.
In April 2008, she had spoken about a special mission being undertaken by Headley and in my thinking this is pretty specific.
The agencies seem to have a different interpretation of this and I really cannot comment why this is the case.
Do you think the agencies were a bit slow in reacting to Headley considering the first warnings about him came after the 9/11 attacks?
That is a matter to be seen. I have mentioned that there were various instances where his relatives or friends have spoken about him.
The nature of the warnings by his wife, according to me, was specific in nature. However, it is about how each one analyses this information. I cannot comment why they thought it was not specific in nature.
It is said that Headley shared a lot of information with his handlers post 26/11. How grave a situation do you think this is for India?
This is a matter of investigation. Headley has spoken a lot to his interrogators and they have managed to get a lot of information from him about the manner in which operations have been carried out and how their modules function.
How much of an effect do you think Headley’s arrest has had on terror groups like Lashkar and Al Qaeda?
It is not the end of the road for them. But it sure is a big blow to Al Qaeda and Lashkar.
Headley’s arrest has deprived these groups of a good scout.
In Headley they had a lot of benefits. He could speak in several languages and the manner in which he could operate was very unique. They do not have many like him.
Hence, his arrest is a big blow to them although not the end of the road.
What, according to you, has changed in the entire terror scenario post Headley’s arrest?
Headley has been talking a lot and has been giving loads of information on the manner in which both Al Qaeda and the Lashkar operate.
However, the most important thing is the information that he has shared regarding Ilyas Kashmiri. This bit of information has helped agencies in India, Pakistan and the US realise the threat posed by Kashmiri.
Headley also goes on to reveal the importance of Kashmiri and what a threat he is to the world.
Headley also lists the manner in which both these organisations work and also how their modules function.
Overall, I think Headley was a prime catch for the agencies and will help nations fight the terror war more effectively in future.
Headley slipped into India with ease on several occasions. What do you think made this job so easy for him?
Was there any support from the US agencies?
I cannot tell if there was any support for him from US agencies. The fact that he had a clean passport and a legitimate business made the job very easy for him.
He travelled on clean documents on various occasions and that didn’t create any doubt for anyone.
Moreover, as I said earlier too, he was a good scout and his operations were unique in nature.
He ensured that there was no mess up in his documents. All these factors helped him carry out a smooth operation in India without getting noticed.
I am not too sure about the people who he had with them. People who have interrogated him have said that he did not take any assistance.
However, that seems unlikely.
He had a legitimate business and many of those working in this set-up too have managed to immigrate into India. These factors need to be looked into.
The entire case needs to be seen as a whole since there was also talk that there were scouts such as Fahim Ansari in India who also did some part of the work.
Why has the name of Tawwahur Rana, which was prominent in the early part of the Headley investigation, vanished? What role did he play?
Rana is a less important character in this entire case. Headley has already pleaded guilty whereas the case against Rana is still going on and one needs to see what comes out of it.
As of now what we know is that Rana is the one who provided Headley with the infrastructure. It is too early to say anything much on Rana as of now since the case is still open against him.